â€œDi manakah toilet?â€
We put our 4 year-old Vivi in charge of learning how to ask directions to the bathroom in Indonesian.Â Important job.Â Needed the best possible chance of being remembered.Â I figured she has the youngest mind, so given language-learning aptitudes it was most likely to stick there.
And it did.Â For both her and our 6-year-old Elodie.
I could never remember how the phrase started.
Finally, we stepped off the plane in Jakarta into a wonderful fuzz of humid, hot air. Â Elodieâ€™s eyebrows shot up, â€œYeah.Â Itâ€™s warmer than Yellowknife.Â Oh, Yeah.â€
Vivi, my second subarctic-raised child, who has a comfortable-temperature range of precisely 2 degreesâ€”between about 17-19C–started squirming and pulling at her shirt, a Valentineâ€™s Day present from her Nona with two pockets on the front. During the trip, one pocket had been home to a red Canada-bear keychain, the other became the hideaway of a cherished chocolate golden coin that had been handed out for Chinese New Yearâ€™s in the Vancouver Airport.Â Somewhere between Tokyo and Jakarta, sheâ€™d fished the melty coin out and eaten it, but not before some of the chocolate had oozed out into the pocket.Â Her too-hot wiggles were in danger of becoming overtired thrashes, and I was starting to worry about possible pocket-melted chocolate squirts, when suddenly she turned and grinned, â€œDo you remember how to ask to go to the toilet in Indonesian, Mommy?â€
Me. Blankly. 20+ travel-hours in. â€œNo.â€
â€œDi Manakah Toilet?â€ she chirped, then skipped ahead of us into the airport beaming.
A nice man motioned us towards the airportâ€™s family toilet, the customs officer grinned at the girls, and it soon became clear from the smiles that surrounded us at the luggage carousel that weâ€™d landed in a country that loves kids. Canada is friendly to kids, but not like thisâ€”passers-by patted them on the head, several stewardesses gave them high-fives, and a security guard bent down to chuck Vivi under the chin. The kidsâ€™ arrival buzz carried over as they romped into our hotel room. Two AM found our cubs play-fighting with Darcy calling out, â€œElodie! Stop standing on your sisterâ€™s face!â€ When Vivi completely and utterly lost it 5 hours later as we checked out, we didnâ€™t even really get any death-stares for being the people whoâ€™d brought the wild and tearful animal to the breakfast buffet.
I love countries like this.Â Iâ€™m not sure, exactly, what is different here than in Canada.Â Perhaps, at home, we adults all simply think that what weâ€™re doing is too important to be disturbed by children.
As weâ€™ve travelled further from the capital, peopleâ€™s smiles have stayed broad, but the toilets they direct us to are changing. Plumbing-related drama is always a bit of a travel-stressâ€”most recently I actually had to get the hotel lady in Bonn, Germany, to show me how to turn on the shower.Â (This is a good way to make someone else feel smart.)
I’ve had to plumbing-adapt before, but I’ve never had to lead the adaptation wave. Motherhood challenge #679.
Jakartaâ€™s facilities boasted a full range of options: abundant TP and the water-sprayer attachment that Iâ€™ve seen previously, when I lived in Djibouti, also a majority-Muslim country.
Midday today, we landed in Semerang, still on the island of Java, and found an empty TP-holder and the sprayer.Â I started picturing the Kleenex in my bag and wondering how many days it would last.Â Weâ€™re not many years past diapersâ€”this type of logistical stock-taking is still second-nature.Â And then I saw the sticker reminding me of the eco-benefits of a water-based strategy (as though theyâ€™d read my guilt-prone-eco-nerd mind).
Best back-of stall door sign ever
After we changed terminals, there was simply the sprayer, paired with the best back-of-stall sign Iâ€™ve seen in some time. Â I particularly enjoy the indication-of-dehydration colour coding at the bottom.
I took a picture of the toilet and the sign. (This is a good way to make a bathroom-cleaner double-over laughing.)
Borneo Parenting Challenge #1
And then we landed in Borneo.Â I headed to the bathroom with Vivi, and beheld our first squatter toilet, complete with an open tap and an overflowing water tank beside it. She peered at the scene, â€œHey!Â Maybe itâ€™s a little bathtub for babies!â€ I decided that there was no possible way we were going to make it through the next month if we didn’t fully roll the way the Romans do in Rome. Â Steady tone, reasonable expression, I explained that the water and scoop was for use instead of toilet paper.Â She took this calmly, making me quite proud.
At that moment, a largish insect flew in through the window.Â Her hands flew up– â€œOh!Â A bug!!!â€ And she scurried out, her mid-winter subarctic semi-sterile no-insect norms having been decisively violated.
Elodie came in, listened to the unlikely story, and crinkled up her nose.
I have previously helped lead workshops entitled â€œLeadership and Influence.â€Â All skills of persuasion described in the workshop were required. I was glad weâ€™ve done as much camping as weâ€™ve done.
Tomorrow, we get on a boat for 3 days and 2 nights to go look for chimpanzees in Tanjung Putting National Park, in the last vacation-y part of our trip before we head to the hospital.Â I have no idea how one pees in this circumstance, but I believe that relatively profound plumbing/non-plumbing drama may soon be ours.Â At least I can count on Vivi to ask, when the need arises, â€œDi manakah toilet?â€